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2019 Week 4 MAC Preview: Temple Owls @ Buffalo Bulls

Buffalo won the 2018 edition on the road. With Temple riding a high after beating ranked Maryland, can Buffalo catch the Owls in a trap game?

Buffalo v Temple Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Several rematches are going on for the Buffalo Bulls when they head back home to UB Stadium this Saturday.

One, Buffalo is facing Temple again. The Bulls caught Temple at a good time last season and knocked off the Owls, 36-29, at Lincoln Financial Field behind Kevin Marks’ 138 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Temple improved throughout the season, finishing with eight wins while making a solid run for the American Conference East crown. That success resulted in head coach Geoff Collins getting poached by Georgia Tech, leading to the arrival of a former MAC coach in Philadelphia.

The moment Rod Carey probably became a desirable hire for the Owls was when he led Northern Illinois to a 19-point comeback in Detroit in the MAC Championship last year. Carey’s opponent? None other than Buffalo, which marinated in the feeling of coming up short for the conference crown the entire offseason.

Now, Buffalo has a shot to prove itself against a quality Temple opponent — receiving seven AP votes after stifling a ranked Maryland team — while also earning revenge on former NIU head coach Rod Carey, who currently sports an unblemished 2-0 record at his new job.

While Temple celebrated its Week 2 by earning a statement win, the exact opposite can be said for Buffalo. Considering they led Penn State at halftime in Happy Valley, many expected the Bulls to dispose of Liberty in Week 3, but the Flames built a 25-point lead on Buffalo and prevailed 35-17.

Buffalo’s inability to stop Liberty’s passing attack (325 yards, 4 TDs) prevented the Bulls from earning an FBS non-conference win. It was the second consecutive week Buffalo allowed its opponent to pass for four touchdowns as the same occurrence transpired at Penn State. Allowing an average of 40 points per game over its last two contests, Buffalo hopes to make amends when Temple comes to town after scoring just 20 points in Week 3.

Running backs Kevin Marks and Jaret Patterson combined for 135 yards against the Nittany Lions and the success continued at Liberty. The duo finished with an aggregate total of 177 on 35 carries against the Flames, but the offense still scored just 17 points. The passing game served as Buffalo’s lingering problem in the loss. Freshman quarterback Matt Myers completed under 50% of his passes and faced three sacks last Saturday night. Myers showed flashes of potential against Penn State, confidently leading first half scoring drives down the field in front of over 100,000 at Beaver Stadium. With a homecoming back to Upstate New York, Buffalo hopes to find the same Myers that was present in the first half against the ranked Big Ten foe.

Temple’s defensive sample size is hard to read as the Owls have faced just two opponents and one FBS team all year. But considering Maryland exploded for 79 points on Howard and 63 on Syracuse, the Owls’ ability to limit the Terrapins to just 15 points is a testament to how great the unit looks. Producing four sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and holding Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson to a 15-of-38 performance is all impressive. But nothing made a greater statement than Temple’s two red zone stands at the end of the game. Temple forced Maryland to wind up empty-handed after a first and goal at the 4 and two attempts from the 1 on the same sequence. Then, the Owls prevented the Terps from capitalizing on a first and goal at the 10 in the final minutes.

Buffalo’s going to have to establish the run game on Temple’s defense, as the Owls still allowed Maryland a respectable 161 yards a week ago. Improvement from Myers in the accuracy department is a must if the Bulls hope to pull off the upset against their third Pennsylvania-based opponent of the season.

When Temple has the ball, quarterback Anthony Russo can be dangerous. Russo replaced Frank Nutile shortly after last year’s loss to Buffalo and the Owls have been a whole different team offensively since. Russo has completed 52-of-78 passes for 686 yards and seven touchdowns in just two games, delivering the go-ahead touchdown in the middle of the fourth quarter.

The Owls will have to find the next Ryquell Armstead in the running game and the likely candidate is freshman Re’Mahn Davis. Davis posted 92 yards on Maryland last Saturday and leads all Owls with 152 on the season, averaging over six yards per carry.

To stop this, Buffalo must replicate its defensive successes from the first half against Penn State. The Bulls completely took away the Nittany Lions’ run game early, forcing Penn State to win through the air. Buffalo applied necessary pressure with three sacks and seven tackles for loss. Eventually, Penn State’s passing game elevated but Buffalo winning the battle at the line of scrimmage early delayed the process for over two quarters.


Game Notes

Time and Date: Saturday, September 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET

Network: ESPNU

Location: UB Stadium — Athens, OH

Spread: Temple (-13.5)

ESPN FPI: Temple has 81.0% chance to win

All-time series: Buffalo leads, 13-4

Last meeting: Buffalo 36, Temple 29 — September 8, 2018

Buffalo went 9-0 against Temple in the 50s and 60s and the former MAC rivals split the series 3-3 from 2006-11 during the Owls’ brief MAC membership. The Bulls won last year’s non-conference edition in Philly which will be on many Temple players’ minds as they enter Buffalo.


Prediction

Expect Temple’s defense to keep this on the low-scoring front, or at least, lower scoring than last season. While Buffalo returning home is what the Bulls need after a rough two-game road trip, Rod Carey and the Owls present quite a challenge as Buffalo’s toughest remaining opponent on the schedule.

Temple’s defense will make key stops on third and fourth downs, although Buffalo should produce another solid day on the ground. In terms of offense, it’s a battle between Anthony Russo and Matt Myers. Whichever quarterback can pick apart the opposing secondary is the one that prevails. Factoring in last week’s results, this is Temple’s game to lose.

Prediction: Temple 31, Buffalo 14